Combating PKK on slippery grounds by Veysel Ayhan*
First, let me correct one point. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) does not launch direct attacks on military bases.
It attacks the outposts of these bases. What does this mean? A military outpost houses about 200 soldiers.
The bases I speak of are established to provide extra security to these 200 soldiers. Every base has its outposts, generally located on nearby hills. Some 20-40 soldiers are alternately positioned at these insecure shelters. In a sense, the soldiers are sacrificed in order to protect the main bulk of the military unit. When there is an attack on an outpost, the base concerned is alarmed and asked for help and 200 soldiers are saved by sacrificing 15-20. This is what happened the previous day. Eight soldiers from the outposts located some 300 meters away from the Yeşiltaş military base were martyred.
The bases located on the commonly used routes and in lowlands in order to prevent smuggling such as those in Dağlıca, Aktütün, Bayraktepe and Çukurca were abandoned in the 2000s and had not been used since. When the fight against the PKK resumed, Gen. Hasan Iğsız reactivated them in 2006. As these bases proved easy targets for the terrorists, these insecure outposts were constructed on 1,600 hilltops. This meant some 60,000 soldiers were made easy targets for the PKK. An analogy would be establishing an alarm system outside your house on a mountain and using one of the family members as an alarm button in order to protect the rest of the family. In the event of an attack, that family member dies and you are alarmed! In other words, the martyrs in these outposts are previously calculated and accepted martyrs. The outposts are located on steep slopes. When they come under attack, it is impossible to protect the soldiers in them. So far no soldiers could be saved from the attacks on them. In pitch dark, it is impossible to send reinforcements to them or rescue them with helicopters or thwart the attacking PKK militants. Indeed, five hours before the attack, the soldiers in the outpost informed the base that there were militants on the move, but nothing could be done in response.
The counterterrorism strategy currently employed by the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is field supremacy. But at night it is the PKK that enforces its field supremacy. This strategy is an anachronistic and misguided strategy, a legacy of World War I. The fields where hundreds of PKK militants can freely wander cannot be defended from the lowlands. This strategy must be abandoned; instead, air combat techniques should be given priority while special ops troops from the gendarmerie and the police should be employed in the field. This strategy had been quite successful until the Uludere tragedy, in which 34 civilians were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military air strikes in Şırnak’s Uludere district, due to false intelligence. Field supremacy, too, could be achieved in this way.
Establishing a professional army, subordinating the gendarmerie to the Interior Ministry, establishing a rural police force, a center housing all counterterrorism components presided over by a civilian are other indispensable military steps. As for the source of the problem: The interview Murat Karayılan, the PKK military wing’s number one, gave to Avni Gürel indicates that our state, which established and protected the PKK as well as its national resources, is no longer able to manage the PKK. The PKK is unfortunately a subcontractor. It performs the orders placed with it. It does not care about Abdullah Öcalan, its jailed leader, or Karayılan. Therefore, making a deal with one of its wings is not enough.
In order to make a deal with the entire PKK, you have to surrender to the demands and wishes of certain evil networks within the country, junta members in jail or not, and some hyperactive countries outside, which is not acceptable. Those who try to get a compromise with Öcalan or Karayılan and those who take the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) as a civil society organization are in pure naiveté. Yes, but what is the solution? The solution is actually quite simple: restore cultural rights, take the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as a political interlocutor, and fight the subcontracting terrorists with precision attacks.
*Veysel Ayhan is a managing editor at the Zaman daily.